The LGBTQIA+ movement is perceived as one of the most inclusive environments to this day, with its message of love and acceptance. Within closed doors and in dating-apps, however, gay people can behave in an extremely excluding way; a majority mask their discriminating statements as a preference,“No blacks, no fats, no femmes” has almost become a catchphrase on apps like Grindr and Scruff, used by faceless peoples profiles looking for hook-ups. If we look at the Pride flag, how can a flag which represents love and acceptance communicate inclusiveness?
The rainbow flag has been an iconic symbol for the LGBTQIA+movement ever since Gilbert Baker released the design in San Francisco 1978. It has since its birth had many different iterations, based on availability of colour, location, and focus. The original rainbow flag Baker produced had eight colours, and meaning was attached to each colour. Hot pink was dropped the year the design was launched, because the demand for the ink became too high for supply.
The boost in the production of the flag was the aftermath of the murder of Harvey Milk, gay rights activist and the first openly gay official. The pink dye had not been in demand earlier, and was therefore dropped from the flag because of availability. The turquoise followed suit the year after, because it became obscured when hung vertically from e.g. a lamp post, so turquoise and indigo became blue, and we were left with the now famous six coloured pride flag.
With time, the meaning of the different colours has become less known, and the composition itself has become symbolic, but what does the rainbow flag mean as a visual symbol for the movement? Beside the symbolism of the individual colours, the six stripes have since the 90’s represented diversity in sexuality and gender, that exists in the LGBTQIA+ community. The flag has become an immediately recognisable symbol of the movement. It has been rumoured that Baker was inspired by Judy Garland’s performance of “Over the Rainbow” when designing the flag. Garland is one of the first gay icons, but she unfortunately died in 1969, mere days before the liberation riots at Stonewall, which really started the gay rights movement. The first brick thrown during the riots was by Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, gay liberation activist, and drag queen.
July 8 2017, a new iteration of the rainbow flag appeared in Philadelphia, which added one black and one brown stripe at the top. The Tierney Agency in cooperation with Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT affairs created and hung that up outside the town hall in response to underlying racist problems, which were evident at the local queer bars. This new flag created a generational split within the gay community, as the older generation didn’t feel these two new stripes were necessary. Some even state that the change implies that Baker’s original piece is an exclusive and racist design, which was not his intention.
The rainbow flag was not designed with race in mind, but to support free sexual and gender expression, but what is the problem with the two new colours? If we look at the evolution of the rainbow flag, one may notice that one of the iterations already had a black stripe, but then at the bottom of the flag. The idea behind this was to represent those lost to the horrifying AIDS epidemic of the ’80s.
Since there’s already been a rainbow flag with a black stripe, can the problem be that the same colour has been used to symbolise different things, or is it because the new flag raises awareness about racism? Looking at the history of the flag we can see that it has adapted to the movement on demand; where Philadelphia wanted to raise awareness that even a society which prides itself on acceptance, can still be racist. Considering how much gender and sexual diversity there is, and the flags affiliated with each, where do we draw the line on diversity, and why can diversity not include skin colour?
The colour addition to the flag, whether though you are for or against it, symbolises a vulnerable group within the queer community. We have marginalised groups within a already marginalised community, that should support each other and act as allies, rather than tear each other down.
- Murphy, M. J. (2018) We Don’t Need a New Pride Flag [Internet] https://medium.com/@emjaymurphee/ [Read 09. October 2018]
- Quito, A. (2018) The New Rainbow Pride Flag is a Triumph for Inclusiveness - And a Design Disaster [Internet] https://qz.com/quartzy/1303522/ [Read 12. October 2018]
- Schechter, S. (2018) Judy Garland [Internet] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Judy-Garland [Read 06. November 2018]
- Scotts, Carnegie Mellon University (s.a) The Rainbow Flag [Internet] http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/scotts/bulgarians/rainbow-flag.html [Read 24. September 2018]
- The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (s.a) Stonewall Riots [Internet] https://www.britannica. com/event/Stonewall-riots [Read 06. November 2018]
- Tierney More Color More Pride [Internet] http://hellotierney.com/work/more-color-more-pride-2/ [Read 06. November 2018]
- West, A. (2018) Older LGBT people don’t want black or brown stripes added to the rainbow flag, survey reveals [Internet] https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/06/29/ [Read 24. September 2018] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_flag_ (LGBT_movement) [Read 24. September 2018]